One year after the violent split between Hamas and Fatah, talks are once again underway. Mohamed Abdel Azim travelled to Damascus for EuroNews to talk to Hamas’ exiled leader Khaled Meshall on the major issues affecting the group. They discussed its links with other countries and the role of the European Union in the region. Here is our exclusive interview with Khaled Meshaal.
EuroNews: Do you agree with the idea of freeing Israeli soldiers and talking to Fatah?
Khaled Meshall: Concerning the soldier Gilad Shalit, as you know it’s Olmert who prevents negotiations. It’s Olmert and his entourage who keep putting up road blocks. He doesn’t respond to our demands. We have agreed to the Egyptian mediation plan and when we get into naming prisoners to free Israel refuses to talk. When Israel accepts our demands, we will free the Israeli soldiers we have as soon as we can. We have no interest in keeping him.
EuroNews: How true is it secret contacts exist between Israel and Hamas?
Khaled Meshall: We don’t have secret contacts and we don’t have contacts with the enemy Israel.
Euronews: Is it imaginable that direct or indirect negotiations between Hamas and Israel could take place at the moment?
Khaled Meshall: The conflict with Israel has to be managed in a global way and when Israel becomes mature and accepts the rights of the Palestinians, then we will decide to adapt our position.
EuroNews: What of the negotiations already initiated between Mahmoud Abbas and Ehud Olmert?
Khaled Meshall: Olmert issues vetoes on the 1967 borders, on Jerusalem, on the demolition of the occupied settlements and on the right of our return. What is the value in negotiating in the face of all these red lines?
EuroNews: The value being to test the willingness to create a Palestinian state?
Khaled Meshall: You saw Bush’s recent visit to the region and his speech at the Knesset. He slapped down the region and aligned himself with Israel. Although Olmert negotiates with Abbas, it’s to distance himself from internal problems and make Israel’s public image more attractive.
EuroNews: Is it possible in the future that Hamas could entertain negotiations with Israel?
Khaled Meshall: Israel has to announce in a clear way that it accepts a Palestinian state on the 1967 borders, including Jerusalem without settlements, and the right of refugees to return. Without this, we will never agree.
EuroNews: In that case, would you be ready to recognise Israel?
Khaled Meshall: No, the question of recognition is out. I have already said we would be able to sign a truce. There are other formulas, but we have already stated recognition is not one.
EuroNews: You could also sign a negotiation treaty or an agreement with Israel?
Khaled Meshall: Listen, there have been signed agreements between the Palestinians and Israelis since Oslo, which have proved useless. The question is this: will Palestinians be given their rights. At this time, we can neither see a different Israeli nor American position on the horizon. There isn’t any international willingness to impose a satisfactory solution for the Palestinian people.
EuroNews: Ehud Olmert has said Jerusalem will always remain under Israeli sovereignty. What do you think about this statement?
Khaled Meshall: The nature of Israel’s position is proof there is no possible arrangement on the horizon because of Israel’s alignment with the US. Olmert can say what he wants, Jerusalem was and still is Palestinian and Arab.
EuroNews: During his campaign Barack Obama said Jerusalem should be the capital of Israel.
Khaled Meshall: We refute and condemn these kind of statements because they are insulting. Despite everything, we don’t expect a lot from the American administration, whether it’s Democrat or Republican. We’re not counting on that. We’re focusing on our rights.
EuroNews: Hamas is accused of having links with Tehran. Is it true?
Khaled Meshall: We have links with Tehran and we also have relations with other Arab countries, as well as good relations with certain European countries. What is the problem? They are political relations and we rely on nobody.
EuroNews: It’s said there are material and military support from Tehran towards Hamas.
Khaled Meshall: There isn’t any military support. There is however financial support to the Haniyeh government from certain Arab countries. What is the problem? It’s the Palastinian peoples right.
EuroNews: Is it because there is fear of an axis between Tehran, Gaza and Hizbollah in the region?
Khaled Meshall: There isn’t an axis but there is an American vision to classify the world as it wishes to see it. According to its lying criteria America classes states between modern and extremist. We have to refute this American vision.
EuroNews: In Europe, there are worries of the links between Iran and the use of violence as a political means.
Khaled Meshall: The use of violence as a means? We are a people under occupation. Half of our people have been under occupation for 60 years, the other half are dispersed all over the world. Isn’t it a people’s right to defend itself? It’s the least we have. It’s a duty and an honour.
EuroNews: What do you expect, and what do say to Europe on this point?
Khaled Meshall: There isn’t a solution in this region. The Europeans need to know that there isn’t a solution by hiding behind the Americans impossible conditions. The solution is to give Palestinians their rights and put an end to the Israeli occupation. At the moment, there is a historic chance. Arabs and Palestinians accept the creation of a state on the 1967 borders. I call Europe to drive the international community instead of the failing American administration, in conjunction with Russia, China and others, in order to return the rights of Palestinians and end the Israeli occupation.
EuroNews: The Mediterranean Union will see a French presidency in the European Union. What do you expect from this?
Khaled Meshall: Are there new politics that Europe can offer? That is the point, if Europe continues to close its ears and remain inept. As long as the international community and Europe retreat and stay incapable, there will be no positive outcome. The Arab and Muslim worlds expect Europe to offer something else.”